Denver (2-1) faced the Sacramento State Hornets (2-1) in the first game of a home-and-home non-conference basketball series. The Hornets were led by first-year head coach David Patrick who had a team that matched up with DU’s size and athleticism. It was an evenly played game as Denver led by three points at the half. Denver had an 8-point lead on a Tevin Smith jumper in the paint at 11:46 of the second half but the Hornets reeled in the Pioneers. For the game, the Hornets matched Denver’s points in the paint, 42, but outscored Denver 15-4 from three-point range. Ultimately, that eleven-point gap was tough to overcome. DU’s Tommy Bruner had a chance to tie the game from beyond the arc with 2.7 seconds remaining but his shot missed the mark.
Denver led five minutes into the game on a Lukas Kisinus layup, 13-11. A lay-up by Sac State’s Callum McRae with 10 minutes remaining knotted the score 20-20 as neither team could create separation. Justin Mullins, Tyree Corbett, Tommy Bruner and Touko Tainamo all chipped in over the next five minutes to give DU a four-point lead with five minutes remaining in the half. Touko Tainamo sunk a bucket with 46 seconds remaining for DU but a jumper by Cameron Wilbon cut Denver’s lead to three points at the half, 36-33.
Denver seemed in full control the first ten minutes of the second half. A fast break bucket by Zack Chappell cut DU’s lead to 5 points midway through the final half. Chappell struck again with a three-point make at the five-minute mark to give the Hornets the lead, 62-60, their second lead of the second half. Sac State extended the lead, capped by a bucket by Akol Awein at 1:12 to give the visitors a 6-point margin. Denver came back on the Hornets, capped by a pair of Tommy Bruner free throws, cutting the lead to 2 points, 71-69, but that is as close as DU could get. Following a missed Hornet free throw, Bruner had a chance to tie the game on a three-point heave at the top of the arc but it missed the mark as Denver fell, 73-69.
There were a number of positives to take out of the game against a good opponent. Tommy Bruner had another solid game at the point with 17 points and 5 assists on the night. Freshman Justin Mullins chipped in with 11 points, 2 rebounds and 2 steals. Tyree Corbett had 10 points and 7 rebounds in yet another all-around performance. The Hornets keyed on Tevin Smith who had a rare off night with 5 points and 2 rebounds. DU shot 76.5% from the free-throw line and won the turnover battle 15/13. Overall an excellent test for DU, facing a big physical team that is very similar to a number of the Summit League teams they will face.
The Pioneers get another shot at Sacramento State on the road on December 7th. Next up is a road trip to the play Idaho State this Friday at Pocatello at 7pm MT.
10 thoughts on “Sacramento State Wins Late, 73-69”
Sac St Hornets. The Sacramento daily newspaper is called the Bee, thus the nickname. Dunker thought you wanted to know this. Stat that jumps out at me: Hornets 7’1” 285 pound center played 38 excellent minutes at altitude
This game was a very winnable game for the Pioneers. They shot well from the field (50%), shot free throws decently and even won the turnover battle (forcing 15, but 13 TOs given up is still a bit too high), and DU led on the scoreboard for nearly 70% of the game. I really like how balanced DU’s scoring is, and when Sac State keyed on DU’s Tevin Smith, other guys picked up the slack.
However, in the last six minutes the Pios were outplayed by Sac State, and that really hurts, especially at home. Second chance points were 16-5 in favor of Sac State in the game, and that is a function of hunger…
I also believe that in today’s game, you need to have decent three-point shooting to keep you in tight games and right now, DU is just 22% from beyond the arc as a team and was only 16% last night. Not good enough…
What to do?
Coban Porter hit 41% last year on three balls last season, but he’s out the lineup for the season. Tevin Smith and Tuoko Tainamo are both 2-5 (40%) from three this year and Marko Lukic is at 33%. Seems to me that one of those three needs to take over and up their three ball shooting attempts…
The important thing to remember is that DU plays in what is essentially a one-bid conference, so how they do in non-league action pales in importance to what they do in the Summit League tourney. The non-league schedule helps DU to get ready for conference play, and we can see already those elements which have already improved (like free throws) and those that need improvement (such as turnovers, second-chance points and three-point shooting)…
Tough loss in a very winnable game for DU – especially being up 8 with just over minutes to play. That said, there were some bright spots – DU never backed down and until the final few minutes, had a response for every run Sac State made. As stated by other commenters, the Sac State defense really keyed on Tevin Smith and others stepped up. That’s going to be a must as DU moves through the rest of their non-conference schedule and towards Summit League play.
The upside is big for this group. Excited to see how they respond on Friday.
Went to this game. Of the over 1,100 in attendance (box score) I’d say 100 were student athletes and were likely required to attend. Not sure why. Being a former Clarion Sports Editor I’ve followed the program. You have to beat teams like Sacramento St. and to get a better crowd you need to get solid local programs to play at DU (i.e. Wyoming, Colorado St., Air Force) to get the attendance. Scheduling is a challenge. A student pep band would help as well! Coach Wulbrun was the right hire but this program was in a deep hole when he was hired and his job is a tough one.
Great points, Erik. The new AD Josh Berlo has set up a committee to improve branding and school spirit. I would hope the pep band would be a part of the discussion. Wulbrun is apparently working on a holiday basketball tournament next season with local, front-range schools. Hopefully, that works out.
Yes let’s form another committee with the same people where the same ideas and marketing buzzwords from years past are rehashed! It will be different this time guys!
Want to draw fans? Win. Form a committee to figure out how to win. Nothing else matters but winning.
The other local D-I schools simply don’t want to play at DU in men’s hoops, or they would be on the Pioneers’ schedule. Even though all those local schools can all draw their own fans in the Denver area, (and travel to DU on a short bus ride), for them, it’s just not worth the RPI hit if they were to lose to DU…
Thus, DU is stuck financially in hoops scheduling right now. They just can’t offer $40K-80K guarantees per game (or more) to bring in quality opponents. Lack of guarantee money aside, most opponents won’t even come to Denver at all, preferring their home games to generate their own revenue.
This is why we watch DU play Division II and III teams at home, as you can get them to play at DU for less than $10K. We aren’t the only team in this predicament, but being low on the D-I food chain is tough sledding, especially when DU won’t spend the money on hoops…
Understand the scheduling problem. I come from Illinois and a bigger b ball school like Illinois State (one of Wulbrun’s jobs) had issues in scheduling.
I will also say that the recorded music played at the game does not appeal to the 40 yr. old plus crowd (who have the money to buy tickets). I’ve been to few basketball games and never heard so much “music”. Almost any college basketball game I’ve been to (including DIII) has a pep band.
Anon has it right about winning. All the promotions in the world don’t make up for a poor product. We FINALLy have a good coach and recruiter but it will take time for Wulbrun to turn around the mess he inherited. In year two, the positive changes are visible and tangible.
I disagree with most of what is being said here. Of course winning helps. But I was at a Grand Canyon game near the end of a season. GC was like a 9 win team. The team they were playing was sub .500. The place was packed and rocking. It was fun. However it is easy for the administration to abdicate their duties by just telling everyone that the team has to win. So they sit around and do nothing. We see this all the time in college athletics. All sorts of administrators who sit around. How about some new, fresh, marketing ideas. How about going down to Grand Canyon and figuring out what they are doing? I’m not a marketing guru. But I do know we have a good product right now. But they need help.